"Showy color during snow season? You bet. These shrubs will wake up a garden with colorful berries when other plants are asleep", says Kim Gamel,

Houzz Contributor. Schmechtig Landscapes couldn't agree more!  Read more:



Published in Landscaping

Years ago, my friends and I would gather as a group to trick-or-treat with our families and end the evening at my home or theirs for a potluck dinner of chili or pasta or pizza. Make It Better, Chicago North Shore's online and print publications reminded me of days gone by and since it is Recipe Thursday, why not share this with you. Each week Make It Better sends subscribers an email with featured stories, events for the upcoming weekend, fundraising and other topics. This morning, Julie Chernoff writes about a Halloween tradition of friends trick-or-treating with their children and gathering afterwards for a potluck family dinner. Sarah Stegner, well known chef of Prairie Grass Café in Northbrook, partakes in this tradition. I would like to share Sarah's recipe including beverages and the link to Make It Better. Enjoy!


Here's the menu:

Beverages: Apple cider for the kids, but the adults might need something stronger after all that trick-or-treating. How about mixologist Daniel Sviland's Caramel Appletini? Combine 1 quart of apple cider with 1 cup caramel sauce. For each 'tini, combine 4 ounces of the mix with 2 ounces of vodka. Shake with ice, pour into a martini glass and garnish with an apple slice.


Main Course:

Untraditional Shepherd Pie

Side Dishes:

Mixed Green Salad

Roasted Pumpkin with Honey Glaze


Apple-Cranberry Crisp


The Recipe's:

Untraditional Shepherd's Pie

Serves 4

2 pounds Tallgrass (or other grass-fed beef) chuck-eye roll cut into 1-inch chunks, fat and sinew removed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup diced onion

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 cup chopped fresh, skinned and seeded tomatoes

1 cup peeled and diced carrots

1 cup diced celery

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (removed from stem)

3 cups unseasoned chicken stock

3 cups demi-glace*

4 bay leaves

1 cup blanched rainbow chard

1 Ghost or Habanero pepper, left whole (optional)

1. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Sear the meat in olive oil in a large hot pan over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally, until the meat is browned on all sides.

2. Remove meat from the pan and sauté onions until tender. Add garlic, carrots, and celery. Return the meat to the pan. Add the chicken stock and demi-glace.

3. If using, tie Ghost pepper with kitchen twine (or place in bouquet garni bag) and lower into liquid—taste often until desired heat is achieved, then carefully remove and discard. Be careful not to touch the pepper with uncovered hands. Cover the pan and cook slowly until the meat is tender. Taste and adjust seasoning.

4. Stir in the swiss chard and place in an oven-proof casserole dish, or divide evenly between 4 smaller crocks.

For the topping:

4 cups potato puree

1/4 cup parsnip puree

1/8 cup butternut squash puree

2 tablespoons whole butter

1 cup chicken stock

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

1. Mix together the above ingredients. Spread on top of braised meat in casserole dish (or divide into 4 portions and spread over meat in individual crocks).

2. Place in 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, until potatoes begin to brown.

3. Serve and enjoy!


Side Dishes:

Salad with mixed greens, Honeycrisp apples, toasted walnuts and goat cheese in a simple vinaigrette of olive oil and apple cider vinegar.

Roasted Pumpkin with Honey Glaze:

Peel a pie pumpkin, halve, seed and cut it into chunks. Toss with olive oil and a little salt on a sheet pan and bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, until it starts to soften. Brush with melted butter and honey and return to oven for about 10 minutes more to glaze.



Apple-Cranberry Crisp with Lime and Ginger

1 package (12 ounces) cranberries, picked over

6 medium Honeycrisp apples, skin on, cored and cut in 1" chunks

1/2 cup sugar

juice of 2 limes, zest of 1 lime

1/4 cup crystallized ginger nibs (find them at The Spice House)

Crisp Topping:

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

3/4 cup rolled oats

2 tablespoons each white and dark brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small chunks

1/2 cup sliced almonds


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 by 13-inch baking dish.

2. In large bowl, combine cranberries, apple chunks, sugar, lime juice and zest and the ginger nibs. Toss to combine evenly. Turn out into prepared baking dish and spread evenly.

3. In food processor, place whole-wheat flour, oats, sugars and cinnamon. Pulse two or three times to blend. Add cold butter chunks and pulse a few more times until mixture forms pea-sized clumps. Stir in almonds. Sprinkle evenly over apple mixture.

4. Bake in oven for about 40-45 minutes, until crisp is bubbly and topping is golden brown. Remove from oven; set on a rack to cool.

5. Serve warm with a dollop of Greek yogurt on top.

Apple Crisp Leftovers, it's also great for breakfast!

The link to Make It Better:  http://www.makeitbetter.net/dining/food-drink/5587-halloween-treat-the-neighborhood-potluck-family-dinner?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=OCTOBER+23+BETTER+LETTER&utm_content=OCTOBER+23+BETTER+LETTER+CID_6ede3db7798956e6bb33a565ed928bc1&utm_source=Better%20Letter&utm_term=Halloween%20Treat%20The%20Neighborhood%20Potluck%20Family%20Dinner


Published in Landscaping
Wednesday, 23 October 2013 07:35

Living Walls - grow your own privacy

"We like to think of our home as our castle, a secure and private place where we can escape from the world.  And although we can't all build moats around our homes, we can employ plants to enclose and screen our private worlds. Unlike architectural structures, plants also contribute color, texture, fragrance and movement that change with the seasons and help us mark time and appreciate nature's rhythms. Use living walls to lower your home and garden's exposure while boosting natural beauty in your landscape." says Jocelyn H Chilvers, a Houzz Contributor, read more at http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/18901952?utm_source=Houzz&utm_campaign=u377&utm_medium=email&utm_content=gallery12


Published in Landscaping
Tuesday, 22 October 2013 09:31

Halloween Decorating

Halloween is fast approaching.  Good Housekeeping has a number of wonderful ideas to inspire you to decorate and entertain family and friends.  From spooky entrances to cobweb cookies and creepy crawlers, check it out: http://living.msn.com/home-decor/interior-design/10-enchanting-halloween-decorating-ideas#1


Published in Landscaping
Tuesday, 08 October 2013 07:35

How to Pick the Right Garden Ceiling

Canopy, umbrella, tree or sky — for the finishing touch in your garden, consider what's overhead...

This article is written by Billy Goodnick, a regular Houzz.com contributor.

"You're sitting in your garden. You look up. What do you see? Robin's egg–blue sky and cotton ball clouds? A leafy canopy shimmering in a breeze? Perhaps it's an umbrella, a gazebo or a rose-covered trellis.

Every part of your garden has a ceiling, even if it's the sky above. Now this may come off a bit "gloaty," but when an architect chooses a ceiling inside your house, it's pretty simple: He or she selects from wood paneling, plaster, acoustical tile or maybe a skylight. But garden designers have a more robust array of useful and decorative choices that can be grown, assembled or constructed.

The main purpose of a home's ceiling is to keep out the elements and prevent the people sleeping upstairs from falling through to the living room below. But a garden's ceiling can do so much more." Read more: http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/7620120/list?utm_source=Houzz&utm_campaign=u367&utm_medium=email&utm_content=gallery24

Published in Landscaping
Tuesday, 01 October 2013 11:28

It's Fall and Time for Fire Pit Season

The cold crisp air signals fall is here and means we cannot do all the outdoor activities we enjoyed during summer. But, if you have a fire pit you can extend the use of your backyard. A fire pit provides heat on those cooler days or nights when it's too gorgeous to stay indoors. Having one installed affords you time to be outside without being uncomfortably cold.


Lake Forest, IL., Schmechtig Landscapes

The use of firepits and fireplaces is an outdoor design trend that has spread nationwide. Incorporating an outdoor fire pit or fireplace structure creates a beautiful backdrop to outdoor entertaining and extends the use of your landscape into the fall and throughout the winter. Imagine lighting a fire on a beautiful winter evening; staying warm while enjoying the winter sky.  Integrating a fire structure can be as simple as adding a portable fire pit to your existing patio or by having a fire pit built to work with your existing design. Retail stores like Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart and Cabela have many models to choose from.


Long Grove, IL., Schmechtig Landscapes

There are pre-manufactured units that can be installed to create a truly custom look, talk to a landscape architect to design a full-scale fireplace.  You can integrate these structures into existing patio layouts with coordinating brick or stone choices.


Barrington, IL., Schmechtig Landscapes

If you are designing a new landscape, consider a fire pit or fireplace to be the focal point where you, your family and friends gather.  The warmth and relaxation of a fire pit or fireplace will be enjoyed for years to come.

Published in Landscaping

"Texture is an element of design that can be used to create distinction among harmonious items; for gardeners that means plants in the landscape.  Foliage texture is what allows us to "see" plants in the landscape even when they are of similar size, shape or color," states Jocelyn Chilvers in her Houzz.com article.  Read more...http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/17074321/list/Texture-Talk--4-Foliage-Types-for-Distinctive-Gardens


Published in Landscaping
Friday, 27 September 2013 08:03

Fall - A Cool-Season Vegetable Garden

Late summer, fall and spring are great times to plant cool-season crops like salad greens, spinach, beets, carrots and peas says Marianne Lipanovich, a California-based writer and editor and Houzz Contributor. Marianne's suggestions are perfect.  Here' her article: http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/3439193/list/Get-a-Jump-on-a-Cool-Season-Vegetable-Garden


Published in Landscaping

Flowers and gardens

Plant bulbs - Fall is the time to plant crocus, daffodils,
hyacinths, tulips, and other spring-flowering bulbs throughout most of the
country. You should plant most bulbs by late October/November, you can plant
tulips as late as November.

Protect roses - Most modern hybrid roses are damaged by temperatures
below 10 F or so. Mound soil over the plant's central crown or bud, called the
bud union.

Mulch - Mulch after a hard freeze. Spread 2 to 3 inches of
compost, composted cedar, pine, or fir bark, weed-free straw, or similar



Lake Bluff, IL., Schmechtig Landscapes


Cut back and divide perennials - Cut back dead leaves and
stems of perennials. Leave those with attractive, dried stems for winter interest.
Divide some perennials if they're overcrowded and if there is still usually
about a month until the hard frost.

Dig and store summer bulbs - Dig and store tender bulbs
such as tuberous begonias, dahlias, and gladiolus.

Published in Landscaping
Friday, 23 August 2013 10:22

Color in your Landscape

"I want a lot of color in my landscape" is the most common phrase we hear from a client. To a designer, this phrase has broad appeal because there are so many ways to add color into a landscape design. Adding color in diverse and creative ways is what makes a landscape come alive. Add layers of color into the landscape design that extend from early spring and continue into the fall and beyond. The early spring layer of color comes from bulbs like hyacinths, tulips and daffodils. These plants usually bloom between mid-March and late April. When planted in ground cover beds they will pop up through the foliage and add color to that space. Bulbs are easy to plant and become a welcomed sign of the summer months ahead.



Barrington Hills, IL., Schmechtig Landscapes

The next layer is provided by the spring flowering woody plants such as crabapples and ornamental shrubs. These plants will flower from April through May, depending on variety, and last for 2 to 3 weeks. With the relatively short bloom time of woody plants, the foliage (or leaf) color becomes important as well. Contrasting foliage colors add visual interest.



Winnetka, IL., Schmechtig Landscapes

Perennial and annual flowers are the summer and fall layer of color. Consider perennial flowers with late bloom times and integrate them into the foreground of planting beds like a ground cover. Fall and winter color is provided by foliage and branch color. Additionally, ornamental grass combined with bright-colored red dogwoods and evergreen trees provide winter color. Contrasting colors again become important. Remember the key is to layer color each season to provide the year-round desire for color in your landscape.

Published in Landscaping
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